Virus forces Murray out of Davis Cup test

World No 4's withdrawal means Britain face Ukraine with very inexperienced side
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The British Davis Cup squad's worst fears were realised yesterday when Andy Murray withdrew from the tie against Ukraine beginning in Glasgow on Friday. The world No 4, who has been feeling below-par since going down with a virus during the Australian Open in January, has been advised to rest for at least seven days. He will be replaced by Colin Fleming or James Ward, leaving Britain with one of the most inexperienced Davis Cup teams in the country's history.

Murray, who pulled out of last week's Dubai Championships because he was feeling unwell, is having further tests to identify the problem. He will be hoping that suggestions of glandular fever are unfounded.

The illness seriously disrupted Roger Federer's 2008 season and in the recent past has kept other players, including Mario Ancic, out of the game for several months. Murray faces a busy schedule in the coming weeks, with successive Masters Series tournaments at Indian Wells and Miami rapidly followed by the clay and grass-court seasons.

"I hoped that pulling out of Dubai when I did would give me enough time to recover, but this virus has hit me harder than any illness I've had before and I still feel terrible," Murray said yesterday in a statement on his website. "Missing out on a home tie is tough for me, but more than anything I'm sorry for all the people making the journey who had hoped to see me play in the team."

When the Braehead Arena was chosen as the venue for this tie, the Lawn Tennis Association was no doubt hoping that the presence of at least two Scots in the home team would ignite the crowd. Little did the LTA imagine the only possible local hero would be Fleming, the world No 580 in singles and No 289 in doubles. Jamie Murray is also missing, having been dropped after a poor run of form and replaced by doubles specialist Ross Hutchins.

Fleming is likely to be selected ahead of Ward on the basis that he offers John Lloyd, the British captain, more options as an established doubles player. Josh Goodall also has decent doubles credentials – he used to be Hutchins's regular partner – but the world No 192 also finds himself in an unlikely role as the team's leading singles player. Chris Eaton, the No 383, should fill the second singles slot. Hutchins, who has played in two rubbers, both of which he lost in straight sets, will be the only British player in the tie with any Davis Cup experience.

Sergiy Stakhovsky (world No 125) and Illya Marchenko (No 224) are Ukraine's top two singles players, while Stakhovsky and Sergei Bubka are an established doubles pairing.

Lloyd remained upbeat about his team's chances. "With the support of a vocal home crowd I firmly believe that this is a very winnable match for us," he said. "We have five players up here who are desperate to play and they have all impressed me in the last week. The play-offs demonstrated that these guys can handle long matches mentally and physically."